SALSA DANCE STYLES
There are as many Salsa dance styles as there are people dancing! This is because Salsa is a "free-style" or "street dance". It is free and spontaneous with no set routine to follow or reference standard. Once upon a time, all you needed were a few basic moves and the rest was following the music with your heart! Since then, Salsa has absorbed many other dance forms to become a more sophisticated dance.
Although it still remains free-style, many distinctive Salsa styles have developed in different parts of the world. Between all these lies a huge repertoire of moves and turn patterns. Each carries a different interpretation of the Salsa rhythm, together, forming an impressive plethora of artistic creativity. Each also have distinctive foot work and turn patterns. Some of the main styles are:
L.A. Style Salsa (The main style we teach)
As the name implies, Los Angeles, USA has spawned it's own characteristic style of Salsa, popularised by well known dancers like Josie Neglia, the Vasque brothers and the Salsa Brava dance troupe. LA style is exciting, elegant and sensual incorporating suave "shine" footwork. It's one of the most popular Salsa styles around the world today, with regular appearances of high profile LA style performers at huge Salsa events like the annual World Salsa Congress & Bacardi Festivals.
What is LA style Salsa?
It is a style that has borrowed extensively from other dance styles. It has been influenced by Cuban & New York style Salsa, Jazz, Swing and even Ballroom dancing. From these influences, the modern dancers of this style have further refined it to produce a distinctive range of turn patterns. Most LA style moves are based on the "cross-body lead", where the man leads the woman across his body in a linear motion. This basic dance component is shared by other dance styles like Cuban and New York styles. All three dance styles share many other common turn patterns as well. For example, the Cuban style "Setenta" is also known as "Hammer-lock" in LA & New York style.
How does LA style differ from other styles?
To start with, it does not focus on the complicated arm movements normally associated with the basic Cuban style. Additionally, the LA style turn patterns are normally "in-line", as opposed to "circular" in the Cuban style. LA style differs from the New York style in that the timing is more relaxed. New York style requires distinctly precise timing to execute all the checks and catches. Most importantly,however, is that many of the LA style moves are sexy and flamboyant, with lots of dips, spins, drops…enough to dazzle any spectator.
Is LA style Salsa the authentic form of Salsa?
We don't believe that there is such a thing as an "authentic" style of Salsa. People from the streets of Cali, Colombia dance differently from those in the clubs of Havana, Cuba. Cubans who live in Miami dance differently to those from Cuba. People from all around the world make their own interpretation of Salsa music and create many styles of their own. There is a huge amount of creativity in the evolution that has made Salsa the diverse and rich dance form we know today.
How about LA "Shines"?
Yes, LA style has shines too! Shines are a spontaneous form of styling combining complicated footwork with intricate hand and body styling. Couples break away from each other in the middle of a dance to start their individual "shines". Effectively a short break from a dance routine, "shining" allows dancers to express their individuality while complementing the style of their dance partner. Shines are most often used where the music breaks into a fast, pulsating conga beat!
Why should I learn LA style Salsa?
Basic LA moves are based on the cross body lead and rely on a strong foundation of basic dance principles. Learning LA style Salsa will therefore provide you with a strong grounding in the basic fundamentals of dance, allowing you to diversify into other styles later on (such as Cuban, Miami or New York styles).
New York Style Salsa
New York gave birth to a unique style of Salsa dancing. Along with LA style, it is one of the most popular styles that can be seen around the world, from London to Japan, Italy to San Francisco. In clubs, classes and stage shows, the influence of New York style Salsa is everywhere. Just ask anyone who has been to some of the biggest Salsa events like the Bacardi Festival in Puerto Rico, or the West Coast Salsa Congress in L.A. They will tell you that many of the shows are strongly influenced by New York style Salsa.
Why is New York style Salsa so popular?
Firstly, it looks great! Specifically, it makes the woman look good. Many New York style moves display the woman beautifully. The moves are stylish and the woman is always showcased as the centerpiece of the dance. Girls love it for the attention they get, and guys love it because making their partner look good makes them look good too! Any style of dancing that makes the dancers look good will inevitably be popular. This is one reason why New York style moves have been so frequently adopted by Salsa performers throughout the world in their stage shows and demonstrations.
Secondly, the moves, or turn patterns as they are called in New York, are very simple and effective. Rather than having complicated entwining turns like the LA style, the patterns are straightforward and the steps are simple. It is this simple elegance that makes it also easy to learn. It is often said that the best dance moves are the simplest moves that make you look great!
How is New York style Salsa different from Cuban style Salsa?
Firstly, Cuban style footwork involves a lot of circular motion, where couples walk around each other while performing various turns. In New York style, on the other hand, there is a lot of in-line cross body leads where couples constantly swap position in a to-and-fro fashion, creating a dynamic tension between them. Secondly, Cuban style turn patterns can get intricately complex and involve many difficult arm movements. New York style turn patterns, on the other hand, are fast and simple. Furthermore, New York style has many spins for the girls as well as the guys. The spins are fast and flashy, often creating a visual spectacle that freezes onlookers in awe.
Where did New York style Salsa come from?
In New York, Salsa is also known as "Mambo". This reflects on the origins of Salsa dancing in New York City. New York style Salsa dancing started as Mambo. Eddie Torres, "the king of Mambo dancing", used to perform on the same stage as Tito Puente, the "Mambo King" himself. Today, Eddie is the most famous Salsa teacher in New York City, passing on the traditions of Mambo to modern Salsa dancing.
New York style Salsa is also a perfect example of how Salsa blends in other styles of dancing. In the early days of Mambo, there were not many turns or moves. As the dance evolved, however, it started to borrow moves from manyother types of dance such as West Coast Swing and Hustle.
What is dancing on "2"?
One of the unique features of New York style is "dancing on 2". The basic Salsa rhythm is based on 8 measures. This is why we normally count, "one, two, three, pause and five, six, seven, pause". When we start our first step on the first count, we call that "dancing" or "breaking on 1". When we start our first step on the second count, we called that "dancing" or "breaking on 2".
In New York, dancers exclusively use the "dancing on 2" technique. When you switch to dancing on the 2, you have to adjust your body rhythm completely. You need to carefully listen to the second beat in the music and train your body to follow that "2" beat. This gives you a completely different interpretation of the music. For those dancers who can make the transition, it opens up a completely new world of music and dance enjoyment.
What are "Shines"?
"Shines" simply refers to footwork, or the intricate footwork pattern dancers display when they break away from their partner in the middle of their dance. "Shines" gets its name from the fact that the dancers will polish their shoes to make them shine in order to show off their footwork! Shines are very popular in New York and L.A. In New York, it is also known as "Mambo Shines". There are hundreds of shine variations, some are well known and others are challenging & done by only a few dancers. The number of shines available is endless, limited only by the imagination and creativity of dancers.
Cuban Style Salsa
Cuban Salsa is also known as "Casino Salsa" (from which came "Casino Rueda"). The dance moves are characterized by complicated arm movements.
For some unknown genetic reasons, Cubans seems to be born with super flexible joints to do all these difficult maneuvers! Somehow many of their turns seem to defy body geometry! Just as you think that a particular move must be impossible, they'll come up with something that is even more complex! Not only will all the intertwining tunnels and twisting bodywork dazzle you, you'll also be impressed by their rhythmic body movements as well.
Miami Style Salsa
An offshoot of Cuban Salsa is Miami style Salsa. Geographically close to Cuba, Miami received thoudsands of Cuban exiles, together with their music and dance culture. After a few decades, a new style of Salsa known distinctly as "Miami style" has developed separately from Cuban style Salsa.
Although Miami style shares many similar moves with its parental dance form, it has developed a unique flavour of its own. For those who have been to Miami Salsa scene, you will be impressed by their immaculate timing and technical precision and you will be dazzled by all the intertwining tunnels and twisting bodywork.
Casino Salsa is actually not a difficult dance to master. In fact, if you have the right technique, it is easier to learn than many other forms of dance. To start with, your basic footwork is a fairly simple walking motion (pausing every fourth beat). What's more, getting the right technique does not automatically mean an expensive trip to Cuba! The secrets are right here!
The following is a list of helpful hints aimed for anyone who is in the process of learning this exciting dance. They are a distillation of much experience studying and teaching Casino Salsa. They are general principles rather than specific breakdowns of moves. Read on and try them out on the dance floor!
Be Cool. To dance Casino Salsa well you must not rush your steps. You need to be relaxed and smooth in the way that you move. Make your movements precise and deliberate.
Be Confident In Your Lead. Guys should have constant tension in the arms. The hands should guide the partner around on the dance floor. This does not mean that you should clamp you partners hands. Rather you should use the right amount of tension in your arms and palms to provide an adequate leading signal for her.
Be Smart When Following. Ladies should match the tension of their partner to follow well. There are times however when arms need to be relaxed and flexible to complete all those arm-twisting super-difficult Casino moves without injury!
Walk With Attitude. Continual movement around in a circular motion is the key. Couples need to 'WALK' around each other, with an imaginary axis between them, to make turns look smooth and effortless. To complete many arm-twisting moves this is essential because walking gives you time to untangle your arms from all those impossible turns!
Spin With Flair. The key to all those spectacular spins in Casino Salsa is not to lose your balance! One way to do it is by spotting while you spin, an age-old well-proven dance technique.
Rise With Thunder. One of the secrets of making your moves look spectacular is good armwork for the guys. When doing turns such as "Sombrero", your arms should spread out more as they arc over your partner. In doing so, you practically "fan out" your arms to create a visual illusion of 10 arms moving at once!
Move With Grace. Girls are well exhibited in Casino Salsa. Here you have plenty of room for self-styling. Make use of your body. Be sensual, playful and creative. Move your body as you please, play with your armwork and show them what you've got!« less
So here you have some of the secrets! The rest is practice, practice and more practice. Really, there is no greater secret other than hard work, dedication and a pure passion for dancing! Good luck and happy dancing!